Movie review – A fake movie with a real mission

2013-01-27 10:00

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Film: Argo (Nu Metro)

Director: Ben Affleck

Featuring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Victor Garber

Rating: 8/10

Argo is set against the backdrop of one of America’s most tense diplomatic ­standoffs – the Iran hostage crisis that began in February 1979.

Ironically, the film has been at the centre of a Hollywood diplomatic incident itself. Ben Affleck, who collected the Golden Globe for Best Director earlier this month, didn’t get a nod from Oscar in the same category.

But then neither did Tom Hooper for Les Misérables or Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty. Both are previous winners for The King’s Speech and The Hurt Locker, respectively.

The web and the Hollywood insider papers are full of speculation about why he didn’t get the nod, but with or without it, Argo is a great film, and Affleck is good in it and behind the camera.

While the bigger issue of freeing the 52 Americans held hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran occupies the public face of the US government, the shadowy CIA is working on a way to free six other Americans who escaped from the embassy before being captured and took refuge in the Canadian embassy.

While the Iranian state gets closer and closer to finding out that there are six unaccounted for Americans in Tehran, the American government is trying to think up a scheme to get them out.

One is to send them on bicycles through the mountains to Turkey. Lucky for them, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) has a slightly more outlandish idea.

Mendez is going to go into show business, buy a script, find a director and set off to Iran to do a location shoot scout. When he returns, goes the theory, he’ll come back with his team – the six American fugitives masquerading as a film crew.

The execution of this crazy plan makes for edge-of-your-seat viewing, with Affleck expertly guiding this spook flick to its conclusion.

Though you might know the outcome from historical newsreels, it’s all about the journey. Along the way, Alan Arkin gives a sparkling performance as the director talked into making a fake movie.

John Goodman takes on the role of John Chambers, the make-up guy behind Leonard Nimoy’s pointy ears and an unsung American hero who helps Mendez with the logistics for his fake movie.

The CIA is seldom cast as the hero of a film. Usually, the agency is up to its armpits in unconstitutional and unethical shenanigans. While Affleck’s film doesn’t paint them snow white, the individual agents go above and beyond to save their fellow citizens.

Argo is a story so strange and so courageous that you couldn’t make it up. It refers to the fake film’s title, a space adventure that is a rescue mission.

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